Category: Data

Interactive DVD (1998 – )

Interactive DVDs (sometimes also known as DVD games, DVD Interactive or DVDi) allow the playing of games on DVD-Video players without the need for a computer or video game console, or any additional hardware (though some titles come with additional hardware such as buzzers).

The interactive DVD make use of the rudimentary interactivity features built-in to DVD-Video players that allow, for example, navigation through menus. The ability to skip to any point on the DVD instead of having to move through the video in a linear fashion as on VHS video recorders is also a major factor in making interactive DVDs practical.

The first interactive DVD game was Dragon’s Lair released in 1998, and a development of an older LaserDisc based game.

From 2001, DVD versions of board games and television quiz shows began to be released.

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CD Cardz (2000 – 2009)

CD Cardz were introduced in 2000 by Serious Global Ltd of the UK, and consisted of trading card-sized CD-ROMs containing information about a character or sportsperson. They were also sold in the US by Serious USA.

CD Cardz were produced for popular shows such as Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Stargate SG-1, and films such as Final Fantasy, Lord of the Rings and Jurassic Park. The cards contained features such as screensavers, photos, trailers and biographies, and had a picture of the character printed on the disc. There were some sports-related card sets produced for EURO 2000, NBA and NFL, as well as Manchester United and Arsenal Football Clubs.

Like the similar business card CD-ROM, they did not work in slot-loading drives. CD Cardz had a capacity of 80 MB.

The CD Cardz format also appears to have been used to create interactive gift cards.

Serious appears to stopped producing CD Cardz and the later DVD Cardz in 2009 as the website ceased to exist by 2010.

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Shaped Compact Disc (1996 – )

Shaped Compact Discs first appeared in the mid-1990s, the first being The Flaming Lips Compact Disc single entitled ‘This Here Giraffe’ released in 1996 on a 8-pointed star-shaped disc.

The most common form of shaped Compact Disc is the business card sized CD-ROM introduced in 1998, but shaped CDs can come in a variety of shapes. Generally, Compact Disc audio discs can be symmetric or asymmetric, whereas shaped CD-ROMs are generally symmetrical so they do not cause vibrations in high-speed CD-ROM drives.

Shaped CDs contain less audio or data than standard 12cm discs, and may not work in all drives.

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LightScribe (2004 – 2013)

LightScribe was not a format as such, but a technology introduced by Hewlett-Packard in 2004 that allowed optical drives to laser-etch labels onto compatible media.

As well as a compatible LightScribe enabled drive, LightScribe drivers and suitable disc-burning software that supported LightScribe was required. Finally, a LightScribe compatible disc was needed. After burning data to the disc, the disc is turned over so the label side is face down, and the same laser that burnt data is used to etch the reactive dye coating of the disc.

LightScribe-compatible discs came in the form of CD-R, CD-RW, DVD-R, DVD-RW, DVD+R and DVD+RW. No Blu-ray discs were LightScribe compatible.

The LightScribe technology could only etch in monochrome, and it was possible for the design to fade over time, especially if the disk was exposed to direct sunlight. Etching a disc took a considerable amount of time; up to 30 minutes for a high-contrast image.

As of 2013, the technology was no longer promoted by Hewlett-Packard, but it is possible to obtain the software from elsewhere. Drive manufactures have now ceased making LightScribe enabled optical drives (optical drives in computers are under threat in general).

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Enhanced CD (1994 – )

An enhanced CD (or ECD) is a Compact Disc that contains both audio content playable on a standard CD audio player, and multimedia content playable on a computer CD-ROM.

Introduced in 1994, the idea behind enhanced CDs was to offer the music buyer some extra bonus features using space on the disc that was unfilled by the music. This might take the form of music videos (similar to the earlier idea of CD Video), interviews, wallpapers, pictures, lyrics, or links to an artists website.

Rather confusingly, there were three different ways on combining the different content on the disc. Prior to 1996, enhanced CDs were created in one of two ways. One was to have the multimedia content in the first track, but this meant that track 1 needed to be skipped when played in a standard CD audio player or else the multimedia track could cause an unpleasant noise to be heard. A subsequent solution was to have the multimedia content in the pre-gap before track 1 (rather like the way a CD-i Ready disc worked). Both of these methods were known as ‘mixed-mode’, combining Red Book Digital Audio and Yellow Book CD-ROM information in a single ‘session’ on the same disc.

To get around the problems of mixed-mode discs, Philips and Sony released the Blue Book standards in 1995, and worked with Apple, Microsoft and the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) to develop them. This new standard specified multisession technology that used two sessions on the disc, the first one containing audio tracks, and the second one containing data that is invisible to CD audio players. In 1996, most enhanced CDs used mixed-mode with the multimedia in the pre-gap, but by 1997 most were using Blue Book standards. The only downside to the newer multisession technology was that CD-ROM drives made before 1996 might not recognise them if they were not multisession capable.

Enhanced CDs can usually be recognised the official ‘Enhanced CD’ logo recommended by the RIAA. They may also have the CD EXTRA logo (previously known as CD Plus), which was trademarked by Sony for use on Blue Book discs.

Later technologies like DVD-Audio or DualDisc tried to perform the same function of offering the music album with bonus material such as videos, but later albums often came instead with the videos on a separate DVD-Video.

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Nintendo Wii U Optical Disc (2012 -2017)

The Wii U was a video game console introduced by Nintendo in 2012 as the successor to the Nintendo Wii. On release, it was the first eighth-generation video game console, and supported high-definition graphics.  It later competed with other eighth-generation consoles such as the Sony PlayStation 4 and the Microsoft Xbox One.

The controller contained its own screen and could either supplement the main display, or in some games could be used independently of the television.

The Wii U could play discs from the previous Wii system, but no longer supported Nintendo GameCube discs. Games for the Wii U could be downloaded from the Nintendo eShop or bought on the proprietary Wii U Optical Disc. The discs themselves stored up to 25GB (only single-layer discs were used) and were similar to Blu-ray discs having been developed for Nintendo by Panasonic. However, the Wii U could not play Blu-ray discs.

Like the previous Nintendo Wii Optical Disc, the discs for the Wii U have rounded edges both on the outside of the disc and inside the spindle hole.

By the end of 2016, over 13 million Wii U consoles had been sold, but the Wii U was discontinued in January 2017.

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CD-i Ready (1991 – 1998)

CD-i Ready was a hybrid optical disc format, combining audio tracks readable by any Compact Disc audio player, and multimedia or interactive elements readable on a CD-i (Compact Disc Interactive) player. It was introduced by Philips in 1991.

The audio tracks conform to Red Book Compact Disc Digital Audio standards, while the CD-i part conforms to Green Book standards, and could contain interviews, photos, biographies, games and more. The CD-i component is located in the ‘pre-gap’ area before track 1, which is skipped over by Compact Disc audio players.

The idea, like CD-i generally, was not a commercial success, and there appear to be fewer than 20 titles released as CD-i Ready discs.

The ideas behind the hybrid CD-i Ready discs were used in later types of hybrid audio/data discs such as the Enhanced CD that contained content which could be read on a standard computer CD-ROM drive rather than requiring a dedicated CD-i player.

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Exatron Stringy Floppy (1978 – 1986)

The Exatron String Floppy was introduced in 1978, and was an endless loop tape cartridge system for microcomputers. At the time, floppy disk systems were still expensive, and cassette tapes were very slow. Despite the name, so-called stringy floppy systems are unrelated to floppy disks.

The tape cartridges, called wafers, contained a 1/16-inch loop of mylar-based chrome dioxide tape, in different lengths according to the capacity of the wafer. The smallest wafer contained 5 feet of tape and could hold 4 KB of data, and the longest was 75 foot and, capable of holding 64 KB of data. A 16 KB file took just 24 seconds to load.

The Exatron Stringy Floppy system was most commonly used with the TRS-80 range of computers, and did not require an expansion interface. By 1982, the price has fallen to $99.50. As well as being used to save data, software, including programs and games, was available on Stringy Floppy wafers.

Although popular with TRS-80 owners, the system could be unreliable, and as the price of faster and more reliable floppy disk drives fell they became less attractive. They continued to be advertised until 1986.

Similar stringy floppy tape systems were available during the 1980s, including the Sinclair ZX Microdrive, and the Rotronics Wafadrive.

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Nintendo 3DS (2011 – )

The Nintendo 3DS is a handheld game console launched in 2011 as a successor to the Nintendo DS. Its main feature was the ability to display stereoscopic 3D effects on the upper screen without the need for special glasses. Nintendo’s previous attempt at a 3D handheld game console (the Nintendo Virtual Boy) was a commercial failure, and required a special headset to view monochrome 3D effects.

The Nintendo 3DS competes with Sony’s PlayStation Vita handheld console.

Several versions of the 3DS have been introduced since its launch, including the 3DS XL with a much larger screen, an entry level 2DS (without the clamshell form factor or 3D facility), and the ‘new’ 3DS and 3DS XL with a faster processor and other upgrades.

It is backward compatible with the Nintendo DS and DSi, and Game Cards for these consoles will fit into the 3DS. Games for the 3DS are prevented from being inserted into the older DS/DSi by a small lug on the card. 3DS Game Cards can hold between 1 and 4 GB of game data (compared to the DS card which held between 8 and 512 MB).

As well as loading games from ROM cards, the 3DS can connect to the Nintendo eShop to download games. Games, audio and picture files can be stored on a Secure Digital or SDHC card (or microSD on the new 3DS/DS XL)

Despite disappointing early sales, the 3DS family become very successful and as of September 2016 had sold over 61 million units.

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Secure Digital High Capacity (SDHC) (2006 – )

SDHC (Secure Digital High Capacity) is a variant of Secure Digital offering higher capacity and speed, and was introduced in 2006 as version 2.0 of the SD specification.

Devices that support SDHC cards will still work with standard SD cards, but at slower speeds. However, older devices designed to work with standard SD cards (usually made before 2007) will not usually work with SDHC cards.

Standard SD cards are available up to 2 GB, whereas SDHC cards are able to offer up to 32 GB.

SDHC cards are rated for speed, with Class 2, 4, 6, and 10 available. The class number relates to the MB per second write speed, so a Class 10 card should offer a minimum of 10 MB/second. Some devices may specify a minimum card speed requirement.

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